New Year New Start?
Christmas was a sober affair thanks to medications, but actually – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I didn’t really miss it! On the odd occasion I fancied something remotely tasting like alcohol, I went for a non-alcoholic lager or cider. Yes they do have them, and yes I’ve found nice ones at last!
Five months post end of treatment and of course I was expecting to have a full head of hair. Who on earth was I kidding?? Mine decided to continue to grow at snails’ pace and it was driving me mad. See my ‘Hair Growth Timeline’.
The clinical appointments had reduced significantly since October, and I’d got used to the idea that I didn’t have to have that safety net anymore. However, the start of January and that all changed AGAIN.
I was referred to the Lymphoedema clinic to see if Kinesiology taping and laser treatment would reduce the fluid and therefore the pain, from around the side of me. It was initially an 8-week course, attending twice a week. 10 months on from that and I’m still attending once a week and it is helping but it’s a slow process.
A month into attending these, and I was already struggling. Juggling work, appointments, running children around, keeping a home, a marriage, and thinking ‘I could do all this before, I should be able to do it again’. But medication and what the body had been through, was interfering with that concept.
On one of my visits to Wessex Cancer Trust I spoke to the Manager and she suggested it could be helpful now speaking to their Counsellor.
THIS time, I said yes straight away. I felt comfortable there, it was in the right surroundings, not clinical at all. The Counsellor was separate from the hospital too. I met her and decided to meet with her each week. I’m so glad I did.
At the end of January, following a bad week of emotions, sleep deprivation, and a visit to a Counsellor, I’d finally admitted to her that I couldn’t cope with everything. I’d finally accepted that I’d had Cancer – that it had happened to ME and not the third person whom I sometimes spoke about – it had been all too surreal for so long, even when the physical effects of treatment were at their worst.
I’d also accepted that I WAS struggling and that the ‘oh I’ll be fine’ line I seemed to have given everyone for so long, I didn’t believe any more.
And it was OK to feel like this. It was OK to admit I couldn’t cope.
I was so emotional that afternoon and evening, it was like it was all coming out.
The next day I went to work and could feel I was tearful. I’d been there an hour and there were only two of us in dealing with urgent calls. I can’t remember what poor soul it was that basically tipped me over the edge, but I took one look at the call, shut the laptop, said under my breath over and over:
“That’s it…I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” and went straight upstairs to see HR.
I walked into her office, said ‘have you got a minute?’, and stayed for an hour.
That afternoon I went to see my GP. He signed me off work and I didn’t argue. Finally I was putting me first and not thinking of how it was going to affect everyone around me. I was also given some tablets to try and get on top of the sleep deprivation and anxiety.
Within a couple of weeks I felt better in myself. I wasn’t crying every day, and I was sleeping better, although unfortunately I felt ‘hungover’ every day and trust me no alcohol was consumed! Again it was time that was needed for the body to get used to the idea.
Where am I now?
Well the hot flushes are still happening a year on from starting the Tamoxifen, but they’re not as regular.
The Chemo-Brain as turned into Tam-Brain, which is a clinical term (not really) for the foggy brain which still drives me mad when I’m in the middle of a conversation and forget simple words. The bone pain comes and goes, and (I say this through gritted teeth) I find if I don’t do gentle exercise at the gym/pool a couple of times a week, it’s worse.
Some days I still wake up feeling like I’ve just finished a month of radiotherapy again. Then the next day I’ve got energy again.
It does sound like a lot of ‘and also….and also….’ don’t I go on??
Tablets wise – I’m now on the third lot for sleep and anxiety – a bit of trial and error but my GP is adamant he will get me sorted!
Life After Treatment?
I’ve read things online such as ‘You’ve been given a second chance at life… live life to the full every day… Don’t take each day for granted… Your Journey is nearing the end…I’m aiming to run my next marathon on….!
Sometimes they’re motivational – sometimes not so much! I did put in one Facebook post, politely, asking people not to send me spam messages asking me to post Breast Cancer related messages, or to check myself because it’s Awareness week/month, and I am reminded every day when I look in the mirror. But I know people mean well. See ‘Social Media and Me’.
Some people think that once the last of the hospital treatment is finished, that’s it – back to your previous life and routine. For me, treatment for one related thing or another is ongoing, and of course the 5-year course of the ‘anti-cancer’ drug still has its own joys to deal with.
How very true.
When treatment ends it’s about moving forward. I’ve found there are so many amazing organisations out there ready to support us. We just have to take that step and make contact. I’ve chatted to some lovely ladies who’ve gone through the same as me. They understood exactly what it felt like to experience the effects. They’ve offered words of advice and reassurance. Reality is – it’s not just happening to you, and you don’t have to go through this alone.
Next: Support Groups